Senator sentenced in drunken driving case

Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2004

State Sen. Lyman Hoffman pleaded guilty Monday to refusing a breath test and received the standard sentence for the drunken driving charge that prosecutors dismissed.

The 54-year-old Democrat, who appeared in Juneau District Court via telephone from his Bethel office, agreed to spend three days in jail in Anchorage, beginning July 6. He was arrested in downtown Juneau on May 1.

Juneau District Judge Peter B. Froehlich suspended 30 days of the 33-day sentence, and said the $1,500 he will have to pay from his half-suspended $3,000 fine doesn't reflect how much a drunken-driving-related conviction costs.

"It's more like $15,000," Froehlich said, explaining that it costs people $3,000 in insurance annually for five years.

Although it may not be quite that high because of Hoffman's age, he told the defendant, "You're going to be paying for the privilege for years to come, if you want to have a driver's license."

Froehlich also revoked Hoffman's license for 90 days and placed him on probation for one year.

Assistant Juneau City Attorney James Douglas said the sentence Hoffman agreed to was the standard sentence for a first drunken-driving conviction. He told Froehlich that Hoffman has no prior convictions "whatsoever."

On the night of May 1, Hoffman was described as driving "erratically," signaling for a right turn and turning left instead, before pulling into a residence at Gold and Sixth streets. The bumper made contact with the residence, but it did no damage, he added.

Hoffman told Froehlich he had nothing to say.

"He had had several difficult, stressful days," Hoffman's attorney, Thomas Nave, told the judge. He said Hoffman realized he was in no shape to drive and drove around the block to return home.

Froehlich said he could see Hoffman was responsible in realizing he shouldn't be driving. But, "mixing alcohol and driving ... is always dangerous, even if it's driving around the block."

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